Ask anyone who has experienced data loss whether it’s a fun experience, and they’ll tell you no. Data loss, whether due to hardware or software failure, accidental deletion, or cybercrime, is a stressful experience.
While there are a number of data backup software options, and disk cloning software that can make the process of data recovery relatively simple and easy to do, if you don't have anything like this in place then in the event of a hard drive crash or corrupted drive you will need dedicated data recovery tools to help restore your missing files and folders.
Losing this data can end up costing you significant amounts of money, and risks discrediting your business in the eyes of customers or clients. It may also expose you to legal liabilities if personal data is lost or stolen.
It pays, then, to have a robust data security plan for your organization. Data recovery software should be an integral component of this plan.
Fortunately, there are several high-quality data recovery packages available to businesses in 2020. In the event of partial or complete data loss, these software packages enable you to recover as much data as possible and limit the negative impacts. Even if you use a data backup service, you should still have a data recovery plan in case the worst happens.
This buying guide takes you through the best data recovery software, both free and paid. After reading it, you’ll know everything necessary before investing in a file recovery solution.
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Best data recovery software
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro
- Stellar Data Recovery
- OnTrack EasyRecovery
- Piriform Recuva
- Wise Data Recovery
- Paragon Backup and Recovery
- MiniTool Power Data Recovery
- Recover My Files Professional
EaseUS isn't overstating the 'Wizard' part of this software's title – it really is 'wizard' in the sense of being good at something. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is straightforward to use, taking you step-by-step through the recovery process. Run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro quickly enough after disaster has occurred and it'll be able to resurrect just about everything, from inadvertently-deleted partitions to virus-ruined files.
The full package is still one of the more affordable solutions we've seen for resurrecting crashed RAID setups – certain packages hide this functionality away in their premium versions. While there are definitely more advanced recovery packages out there, and certainly some cheaper ones, this is the one we'd keep on our shelf for those not-so-special occasions.
Pricing starts at $69.95 for a one-month licence, with a one-year license costing only $99.95. A Lifetime Upgrades license is available for $149.95.
So, upgrading to a paid license is slightly expensive, but the vast number of features you get for that investment means that in reality it represents great value for money. And, when you add to this the app's great performance, EaseUS's responsive customer support, and a tidy user interface, you have a clear winner.
Read our full EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro review.
Stellar Data Recovery is one of the most popular data recovery services for businesses and for good reason. The platform comes with several scan options, meaning you can tailor the scan for the type of data loss that has occurred. This saves time if you’ve deleted an important file and realized straight away, meaning there’s no need for a full system scan.
The platform also comes with advanced search capabilities, making it easy to identify and extract the most critical data.
Another important feature of Stellar Data Recovery is its support for all file formats and drives. It is an adaptable provider that will recover data from hard drives (internal and external), memory cards, flash drives, and optical media like CDs and DVDs.
However, Stellar’s advanced features do come at a cost. The platform is not the most expensive, but it’s still somewhat pricey. There are six different plans available, ranging from free to $299 per year. Most businesses will be well served by the Standard plan, costing $49.99 per annual subscription.
Read our full Stellar Data Recovery review.
Once the darling of free backup solutions for the home user, CrashPlan has since shifted its focus to the enterprise arena with its CrashPlan for Small Business offering.
And CrashPlan is certainly a favourite around here – in fact our official company machines here at TechRadar all run Crashplan, and it's saved our bacon on more than one occasion. It's not quite the same as the traditional file recovery apps that we've covered in this article – it's a backup service first and foremost – but it's so comprehensive that it almost counts.
Crashplan, you see, stores absolutely everything. It chugs away in the background and makes full, detailed backups of your entire machine starting with the newest files first. It then sifts everything into virtual buckets so you can get quick access to the files that matter most.
Critically, though, Crashplan even stores files you've deleted. You can switch this feature off, but we wouldn't: your backups are fully encrypted, so even those deleted files will be safe from prying eyes, and you never know when you might need to retrieve that long-discarded (or virus-removed) file.
Read our full CrashPlan review.
Ontrack EasyRecovery comes in a number of different options, all intended to help provide the complete recovery of data under a range of different data loss conditions.
A free version allows you to recover up to 1GB, so isn't going to be particularly helpful except as for a tester for most people. The Home edition allows for the recovery of files and folders that have been accidentally deleted, though it can also recover them after a virus infection.
The Professional edition allows you to create disk images as well as recover data from CD's and DVD's, while the Premium edition doesn't just have the ability to clone HDD's and SSD's, but can also repair corrupted photos or videos.
The Technician and Toolkit editions are even more powerful, allowing for lost or reformatted RAID volumes, but also come with commercial licensing for commercial use, working across Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.
Prices rise accordingly for the level of data recovery required, and while some of the more advanced tiers don't come cheap, we can speak from experience in saying the cost can be worth it for a successful full data recovery.
Read our full OnTrack Data Recovery review.
Piriform Recuva is a new addition to our list of the best data recovery software but has well and truly earned its spot. Although it may not have the most intuitive or appealing user interface, the powerful scanning features and low CPU consumption mean you should consider Piriform Recuva for your business.
We also like that Piriform only offers one product, so there’s no confusing tiered pricing model or constant upselling. What you see is what you get, and all users have access to the same suite of useful features. A premium subscription costs $34.95 per device per year, with a discount of 17% offered if you buy more than 11 licenses. This makes Recuva cheaper than many of its competitors.
Yet its low price doesn’t mean a drop in quality, and that’s what we like about this platform. Both quick and deep scan options are available, and users can also make use of secure overwriting. This is for when you’re selling or disposing of a hard drive, and want to make sure that none of your data can be reconstructed.
If you’re looking for file recovery software that simply gets the job done, it’s hard to go past Piriform Recuva. It is a no-nonsense platform that performs precisely as advertised.
Read our full Piriform Recuva review.
When it comes to ease of use, it's hard to beat Wise Data Recovery. Although this free data recover software doesn't have a wizard-led interface, there are no complicated configuration settings to worry about either.
Tracking down recoverable data is a simple matter of selecting the drive you want to check and clicking 'Scan'. Alternatively, you can use keywords to search for recoverable files so you don’t have to wade through quite so many results.
Whichever route you choose, recoverable data is presented in an Explorer-like tree structure that makes it easy to tell where it was originally stored. Like all the best free data recovery software, Wise Data Recovery uses a traffic light system to indicate the health of files (and therefore how likely it is that you'll be able to recover them intact, and there's a file preview feature so you can identify files that have been detected.
You can recover individual files, or entire folders at once, but selecting numerous files in several locations means performing several operations.
Read our full Wise Data Recovery review.
Like many providers discussed in this buying guide, Paragon’s Backup and Recovery file recovery software is dual purpose: it both backs up data and helps you recover lost and corrupted data. This is appealing for businesses that want to combine data backup and recovery in one software solution. However, it has resulted in a product that is more oriented towards data backup than data recovery.
We’re also concerned that the platform doesn’t allow online backups. If you want to back up your device on an external hard drive, this won’t be an issue. With the rise in the popularity of cloud storage, however, we think this is a feature that should be included.
Features we do like, however, include flexible backup, disk partitioning, and data wiping algorithms. These features make it easy to control your drives and ensure your data is secure and able to be found.
Although we found Paragon Backup and Recovery to perform admirably, we’re not sure if it competes against the top providers. There is likely better value to be found in a similar price range. Premium licenses for business range from $99 per device for the Workstation plan (our recommendation) to $899 per device for the Enterprise plan.
Read our full Paragon Backup and Recovery review.
MiniTool Power Data Recovery is broken down into five distinct modules. There's 'undelete recovery' which, as you might expect, attempts to pull files back after accidental deletion. 'Digital media recovery' tries to put right SD cards or USB drives that have somehow gone bad. 'Lost partition recovery' is there to look after your boot records if one of your partitions has somehow gone missing, while 'damaged partition recovery' is the real powerhouse of the suite, pulling data off otherwise uncooperative drives.
It's the fifth tool that we're most interested in here, though: CD/DVD recovery. How many of us have made backups onto CD-Rs not realising that they're very much a temporary storage method? While crumbling discs can't all be rescued, run them through MiniTool and you may at least see some results. It's a slow process, but it could be worth it.
Read our full MiniTool Power Data Recovery review.
Few of us run just a single PC these days, so it's handy that a single Recover My Files license covers two installations. It can cope with FAT, NTFS or OS X HFS-formatted drives, offering up a preview of its found files before you pick what to recover – sometimes files are deleted for a reason, and you may prefer them to stay that way...
We've plumped for the Professional version ($99.95, around £80) here mainly because of the inclusion of a hex editor and RAID recovery, features the Standard edition ($69.95, around £50) doesn't include and which it could be costly not to have.
You probably don't need to go the whole hog with the Technician edition ($349.95, around £270) unless you're administering a whole network of machines – it includes a hardware USB dongle which enables you to move your software activation to the machine that needs it, but that price is way beyond personal use.
Read our full Recover My Files Professional review.
One purchase gets you three flavors of GetDataBack: Simple, which has a streamlined interface and can be pointed at FAT, NTFS or EXT formatted drives to hunt for files, and a pair of classic versions focusing on NTFS and FAT drives specifically. The latter two have been around and updated since 2001, and while their age might suggest they may be splitting at the seams, data is still data, and they can find it.
All three packages can be run from a live CD or from within a WinPE bootable Windows environment, meaning you can fire them up without risking much destabilisation of your drives.
GetDataBack Simple is, we'd suggest, particularly useful for laypeople – if you don't know how a particular drive is formatted, or even what FAT or NTFS mean, the unintimidating interface and basic language might still be able to help you pull files back. More advanced users, though, could benefit from looking elsewhere.
Read our full GetDataBack review.
Best free file recovery software
Recuva is a full recovery toolkit, dealing with deep scanning, retrieval of data from damaged drives, extracting files from removable devices and more. Although it does come with a paid-for version like the above, the free version is definitely worth checking out as an option.
It's not the most comprehensive tool, but it's certainly powerful enough for the price, particularly given that the pro version also adds disk imaging tools for taking full backups of your drives.
Perhaps Recuva's most interesting feature is one that's contrary to its main aim: using its secure delete capability, you can completely obliterate files. Note that usually files are only ever truly deleted when they're overwritten by another occupying the same space on the drive – otherwise, it's merely the reference to their data in the OS that's removed.
By overwriting each of their bits repeatedly with zeroes, even the most advanced data forensics tool won't be able to get them back. Perfect for those highly questionable documents that absolutely need to stay deleted...
PC Inspector File Recovery goes further than many data recovery tools in that it will detect partitions that have been lost, even if the boot sector or file system has been damaged or deleted. This could be a real life-saver in an emergency, potentially helping you get data back even if your hard drive is not visible within Windows.
Beginners might find the terminology and design of PC Inspector File Recovery intimidating, and even some more advanced users may find the workflow a little confusing to start with. Take some time to learn your way around it, and you'll find a powerful data recovery program – but one that seems to get better results with FAT and FAT32 drives.
Presented as a pair of tools rather than a single integrated solution, TestDisk and PhotoRec together can recover data from both lost partitions and files.
TestDisk takes care of the partition side of things. The fact that it's a command line tool with no graphical interface might off-putting at first. If can set this to one side though, there's help on hand to guide you through the process of working with your drives. TestDisk offers support for so many file systems, it should cater for most eventualities.
PhotoRec is the component for recovering files. It's available with a command lint interface, but unlike TestDisk there's also a GUI for less confident users. It may not be as intuitive as some of the other recovery software in this listing, but it's effective.
PhotoRec is cross-platform and can be run as a portable app from a USB stick, which means you don't have to install it on your PC and risk accidentally overwriting the data you want to recover.
Despite the inclusion of the word "pro" in the name, this program is still free; there is, in fact, no non-pro version.
The look of UnDeleteMyFiles Pro may not be particularly appealing, but don’t let that put you off too much as there are multiple tools included here, not just data recovery. Recovery can be a little hit and miss as there is no indication of the quality (or recoverability) of files – you just have to hope that the file that are found are in a reasonable state.
When it comes to data recovery, there aren't really all that many options other than the ability to search for particular types of files to reduce the size of the list you have to sort through.
In terms of extras you also get a disk snapshot tool which basically backs up your drive so you can recover data at your leisure, a secure file deletion tool, and email recovery. Worth checking out, even if this is not necessarily the best of the bunch.
It may be a specialised Mac recovery app, but Recovery Guru doesn't limit its talents to just Apple's file system – it's happy to seek out lost files on USB sticks, SD cards, and even Android phones. Its deep scan works very hard, not limiting itself to single sectors or traditional file system layouts but iterating through every single byte on your compromised drives and searching for patterns related to files. Slow as treacle, then, but potentially worth the wait.
When your scan's done, you'll be presented with folders full of files of specific types, which you can later sift through and sort out. This is arguably a better method than selecting the files you want to keep on-the-fly as absolutely everything that can be rescued will be rescued, and you can leave Recovery Guru to work on what could potentially be a rapidly-failing drive while you either drink tea or sort yourself out some hardware that actually works.